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Home Health Library Heat cramps: First aid

Heat cramps: First aid

How to recognize and provide first-aid treatment for heat cramps.

Overview

Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms that can happen during activity in hot environments. People who sweat a lot may be prone to heat cramps. That's because the fluid and electrolyte loss that occurs through sweating often contributes to heat cramps.

Symptoms

Heat cramps most often affect the muscles of the calves, arms, abdomen and back. But heat cramps may happen to any muscle group involved in exercise.

Treatment

If you suspect heat cramps:

  • Rest briefly and cool down.
  • Drink clear juice, such as apple juice, or a sports drink that has electrolytes.
  • Do gentle, range-of-motion stretching and gentle massage of the affected muscle group.
  • Don't do any strenuous activity for a few hours after heat cramps go away.

When to call your doctor

Call your healthcare professional if your heat cramps don't go away within one hour. You should also seek medical attention if you have heart problems or are on a low-sodium diet.

Last Updated: April 17th, 2024